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‘Plastic Planet’ Doc Incites Global Changes

18 Feb, 2011 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Plastic Planet

We are living in the “plastic age” wherein this versatile material is embedded into just about every aspect of daily life.

While plastic has its pronounced advantages, Austrian filmmaker Werner Boote set out on an intercontinental quest for answers regarding the hidden dangers of the ubiquitous synthetic. The resulting 10-year adventure was recorded in Plastic Planet.

First Run Features releases the 2009 documentary on DVD ($27.95) April 12 (prebook March 15).

Boote’s early fascination with plastic — his grandfather worked in the German synthetics industry and often would present him with the latest toys made of synthetics — turned to astonishment as he began researching and filming Plastic Planet in 1999.

One of the most startling finds, Boote said, was that certain types of plastics contain toxins proven to cause infertility, obesity, heart disease, allergies, asthma and possibly cancer, among other health concerns. These harmful substances, such as Bisphenol A, are found in such items as baby bottles and pacifiers.

“That the industry [was] using this substance for such a sensitive product was really heavy,” Boote said. “… The idea that it’s necessary to make a film [to raise awareness] is just a ridiculous situation.”

Boote’s documentary has since led to some changes in the way consumers, politicians and industry officials think about plastic.

“There is quite some positive movement going on,” he said, adding that some viewers have gone as far as refusing to buy plastic products altogether.

Less than two months after Boote presented his findings, all the Bisphenol A-contaminated pacifiers that he tested were taken off the European market. The minister of Austria forbade products containing Bisphenol A that are in contact with children’s food starting at the end of 2011. In addition, the European Commission banned Bisphenol A from products beginning this spring.

When Boote presented Plastic Planet at an Abu Dhabi film festival, the United Arab Emirates’ minister of environment and water asked how he could help. Ten days later, the government prohibited plastic bags starting in 2013.

“It’s very important to make people aware of the situation, that plastic has become a threat for the environment and human health,” Boote said. “Once people are aware of the situation, you automatically start to consume in at least a little different way. … The bigger the public awareness is the stronger the politicians will be in their discussions with the industry. The industry is starting to move.”

For example, retail clothing and accessory chain H&M joins a growing list of others that are developing environmentally friendly collections.

With respect to the film business, First Run has adopted a more eco-friendly DVD packaging process since acquiring Plastic Planet. With this title, the company has opted to use a paper product made from 100% Green Forestry-certified material.

“We didn’t feel it would be right to release a film that is about the dangers of plastic in a plastic package,” said First Run VP Marc Mauceri. “We searched far and wide for what we thought would be the best possible green, non-plastic solution. I think we found it.

“We completely expect that we will start to release a number of titles using this packaging, if all goes well,” he added.


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